Worship as Warfare

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Many of us are facing uncertainty, anxiety, fear, sickness, job loss, and broken relationships at home compounded by racial tensions, political maneuvering, and a viral pandemic. There are many things to be concerned about, none of which any of us can truly control (by ourselves, at least). We need community more than ever, and are having to find new ways to come together even though we can’t necessarily BE together in all the ways to which we were previously accustomed. With all of these tensions swirling in our heads and hearts, worship can seem nebulous, difficult, or unattainable. How could we possibly worship when we are somewhat limited on Sundays? When our hearts are broken? When we fear for our parents, our children, and our country? God has graciously provided prompts for us in His word.

King David knew the struggles of a nation facing difficulty, of brokenness and family tensions. He was a shepherd and the least of his family, anointed King of Israel, gained it all, lost it all, gained it all again, and was STILL a man after God’s own heart despite his failings. He cried out many times in the Psalms from humble, broken places as well as from a place of victory. King David’s life experience and writings are great prompts for those of us who may not be able to find the words to worship in the middle of hardship. Come with me to Psalm 145, the last Psalm of David in the Psalter.

“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”
Psalm 145:1-3 ESV

In the midst of pain, one of the best things we can do is to turn our eyes to our Great God and begin to proclaim the truth of who He is. His character doesn’t change with our circumstance (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). He’s listening and cares deeply for His creation (Psalm 34:17, look back to Genesis to see God proclaim His creation ‘good’). There’s a shift within us and around us when we willingly seek to agree with God and proclaim who He is!

In our modern context, it can be easy to assume that the worshippers are only those in the choir or the worship team because they’re visible, but the heart of worship must be cultivated in each one of us. Every person who has accepted God into their life has the responsibility and the honor to worship Him. Those who lift their hearts in surrender to God ARE worshippers!

Now, on to the idea of worship being warfare: It is of greatest importance that we recognize that our enemy is not the neighbor that annoys us, the person who looks different from us, the opposite political party, or the child that is shredding every last bit of patience we possess. To fight the correct enemy, we must be able to identify them. The Apostle Paul instructs the Ephesians and us in Ephesians 6:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12 ESV

For historical reference, Ephesus was a port city and a stronghold for the goddess Artemis. The temple where she was worshipped received visitors from far and wide, and sinful customs were the norm. Paul had spent 3 years instructing the church at Ephesus, and wrote this letter from a Roman prison, knowing his life was close to its end. Paul knew a little something about hardship, and he knew that our true enemies are the rulers, authorities, and powers who seek to destroy the kingdom God is building in and through us. We see all too often the seeds of discord and hatred that have been sown throughout history and still today, but we are not powerless in the fight against them.

In Acts 16 we find an account of Paul and Silas in Macedonia (now parts of Greece, Albania, and Bulgaria) having been wrongfully beaten and imprisoned because they upset a local business man after having cast a spirit of divination from one of the women he enslaved. As they sat in the prison, they prayed and sang hymns together while the prisoners listened when suddenly there was an earthquake so powerful it shook the foundations of the prison, the bonds on their feet broke, all the cell doors opened. There’s a lovely story about the redemption of a prison guard and his family I’d recommend reading, but my point today is this: our worship has consequences here on Earth as well as in eternity. As we worship the rightful King, chains are loosed, foundations are shaken, and people are set free!

Now, most of us reading this today are not in literal prisons, but we may be struggling against the figurative chains of illness, poverty, or depression. We may feel like our homes are prisons because we’re not allowed to leave them, or that the foundations of our jobs, marriages, or families are shaken to their core. We have this comfort, once again from King David’s writings:

“The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. Open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his words. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
Psalm 145: 14-18 ESV

You are seen by your righteous, kind God. He will satisfy you. He is near. He cares about your battle, and doesn’t expect you to face it alone.

King Jehosephat (2 Chron. 20) found himself about to go into battle against an insurmountable army, and set a stunning example for his people by bowing his head with his face to the ground, leading his people in worship BEFORE their deliverance had come, first in the posture of their bodies and hearts, and THEN in song when the musicians joined in. They praised God in faith, and the next day King Jehosephat sent the worshippers and musicians out before the army.
Their worship set the course for their warfare – they resisted fear of destruction with their worship, and God himself delivered all of Judah from their enemies. We have the same opportunity – to resist fear, pain, and destruction by putting our bodies and hearts in a posture of worship, trusting that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

From this position, join your heart with mine and with King David by opening up your Bible to Psalm 145 and speaking (out loud if you can) the truth of God’s character, and worshipping Him for His faithfulness from generation to generation, in times of plenty and want, in victory and defeat…

This place, this posture of worship is how we fight our battles.

Sarah Hernández

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